Rethinking digital literacy teaching: A teacher's thoughts and experiences

Malawi Heat

Noel Kangawa Mhone* 

There is no specific definition for digital literacy. However, according to British Councils Connecting Classrooms Programme, digital literacy encapsulates the range of knowledge, skills and behaviours demonstrated when using a broad range of digital devices, software and applications and in a range of online environments, communities and networks. 

Such abilities are more than merely the function ability to understand and operate technologies but rather to understand, find, evaluate content, and apply this in a meaningful and responsible manner. So should teachers include it in their lessons? My answer is yes.

Digital technologies are becoming part of our lives. Over the years, the government of Malawi through MACRA has been encouraging TV stations to migrate from analogue to digital. This clearly shows that we are in a digital age in which the ability to use new technologies effectively is becoming important for someone to be employed. 

It is not just employers that need one to have the knowledge of using technology; payment of water and electric bills also require one to have some digital technology knowledge. Some few years ago we were spending a lot of time on the queue so as to pay the bills. Nowadays, we just press some phone buttons and within minutes the bill is cleared. 

These days illiteracy in digital technologies may easily make one find life difficult. For example, if one does not know how to operate a phone he or she will not be able to access the services mentioned above. This means that he or she will be spending a lot of money and time when paying the bills. There are so many other examples that you and me can mention but what is important is that we should find ways as to how we can address these challenges. 

I feel the best way is to incorporate the technology in our school curriculum. I think, someone may say our government is already encouraging this and one of the evidence being computer studies that is taught in secondary schools. That is true. But we have to bear in mind that it is not all secondary schools that have this subject on their timetables. 

The reason is obvious. They do not have computers. It is not their choice that they should not have them. Computers are expensive, so they cannot afford them. What makes things worse is the fact that the larger part of our country does not have electricity. Because of this there are few schools that offer computer studies. As far as I am concerned this is not something good. 

Do we have an alternative? In the teaching profession we are told that resources will never be enough as such we should not be idly waiting for the resources. We are encouraged to use alternatives. We call this action Teaching And Learning Using Locally Available Resources (TALULAR). This has helped us a lot. For example, if a school does not have beakers, recycled plastic containers can be used instead. I feel this also applies to what is being discussed here. 

Teachers should not wait until computers are available for them to engage students in digital technologies. If we can look around we would notice that something similar to a computer is near each one of us. Some of us cannot spend an hour without touching it. According to Prince Ea, an American activist, an average person spends four years of his life looking down at it. I hope by now you have guessed right what I am talking about here. 

Yes, am talking about a mobile phone. We can use mobile phones as an alternative to computers. You can agree with me that some years ago mobile phones were found with only those who had a fat wallet or purse. Some of us were just envying them. We never thought things would change. What about now? Most families now have mobile phones. In some families every member has it. 

Some have two; others even three. This shows that there are more phones than computers in our country. I feel as teachers we can take advantage of this. We must know that as long as mobile phones exist our students will be spending much of their time on them. I do understand that we do have rules that prohibit them from doing so but we must know that we are in the digital age in which technology is very important. 

I am not trying to say that we should be allowing students to use their phones when a teacher is busy teaching. A teacher can agree when and how to use the phones with his or her students. For example, he or she can tell them to use the phones as a resource for their academic research when they are at home. They can also agree to create Whatsapp or Facebook groups for the subjects being taught. 

A teacher would then interact with his or her students even when they are away from each other. Some people would argue that not all phones that students possess can access internet. I feel this should not stop the teacher from using the social networks. These days there are so many mobile phones that access internet.

*Noel Mhone is a professional teacher and a chemist at the Ministry of Mining, Malawi. He is also a participant in the 2022 Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement program.

Post a Comment

  1. Anonymous6:38:00 AM

    Amazing article, I agree in totality

Post a Comment
To Top